Tonight starts Yom Kippur. For the next 25 hours Jews will be fasting and praying.
In 1312 BCE (Hebrew year 2449), Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the second set of Tablets, indicating that God had forgiven the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf. This day henceforth become Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when a person's soul is cleansed of transgressions.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year -- the day on which we are closest to G-d and to the quintessential core of our own souls. It is the "Day of Atonement" -- "For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G-d" (Leviticus 16:30).
For twenty-six hours, from several minutes before sunset on Tishrei 9 to after nightfall on Tishrei 10, we "afflict our souls": we abstain from food and drink, do not wash or anoint our bodies, do not wear leather shoes, and abstain from marital relations.
The day is the most solemn of the year, yet an undertone of joy suffuses it: a joy that revels in the spirituality of the day and expresses the confidence that G-d will accept our repentance, forgive our sins, and seal our verdict for a year of life, health and happiness. When the closing Ne'illah service climaxes in the resounding cries of "Hear O Israel... G-d is one" and a single blast of the shofar, the joy erupts in song and dance (a Chabad custom is to sing the lively niggun known as "Napoleon's March"), followed by the festive after-fast meal, making the evening following Yom Kippur a Yom Tov (festival) in its own right.
Even Mr. Shuldig feels that way:
Also on this date in 1965, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax refused to pitch in the first game of the World Series, choosing instead to attend Yom Kippur services in the synagogue and observe the fast. The World Series went to a seventh and deciding game, and Koufax threw a three-hit shutout to win the Series and earn the MVP award. Koufax is arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time; he unanimously won the Cy Young Award three times. Arthritis ended his career at the age of 31, and he became the youngest person ever elected to the baseball Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame slugger Willie Stargell said: "Trying to hit [Koufax] was like trying to drink coffee with a fork." Yet despite all his achievements on the field, Koufax is still remembered best for his Yom Kippur break, which instilled Jewish pride in millions of Americans. In 2001, in the thick of a pennant race, Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green ended his streak of 416 consecutive games in order to observe Yom Kippur; he cited Koufax's decision as motivation for his own.
May you have a meaningful and easy fast!